They are among the most controversial elected Republicans in a county not lacking for them: Palm Coast City Council member Victor Barbosa and County Commissioner Joe Mullins. Now Barbosa, in a surprise, will challenge Mullins in the Republican primary for District 4 on the County Commission.
Barbosa had originally filed to run against County Commissioner Greg Hansen in District 2. But Hansen is not a particularly vulnerable candidate. Mullins is. So Barbosa’s decision may not be as surprising as it looks. If he wins the seat, he’ll have to move from his F-Section home to the only district that includes only fractions of Palm Coast (such as Quail Hollow, slivers of the W and B Sections and the L Section to the north) and is often referred to as West Flagler, though it’s also central and south Flagler. “We’ve been building modular homes out there and I just fell in love with the area,” he said this afternoon. Barbosa Homes, a company established last year by Barbosa and his father, bought three parcels in the Mondex, also known as Daytona North, for a combined $30,000–on Water Oak Road, Royal Palm Drive and Beech Boulevard.
If he doesn’t win, he can stay put. (Barbosa in the Mondex–he’s previously lived in Newark and projects a more urban than rural demeanor–does seem a bit anachronistic). The primary is on Aug. 23. He doesn’t have to resign his City Council seat until his term runs out in November. “I think he’s just jumping around and if he runs for it we’ll be more than happy to have him run,” Mullins told Ask Flagler, which first reported the story. Barbosa made his original announcement on Facebook early this afternoon. (See it below)
“And who not better to do it?” Barbosa said of his decision to run against Mullins. “I can handle him. People have realized who he is by now.”
But voters have also come to know Barbosa, whose first seven months on the city council were something of a continuous crash scene, including a running feud with fellow-Council member Eddie Branquinho, his code enforcement vigilantism on Facebook, a Mullins-playbook-like attack on former City Manager Matt Morton and revelations that he faced criminal charges in Costa Rica–charges that, so far, have gone nowhere. He has denied being the person named in the charges. Mullins, declared a “wrecking ball” by Palm Coast’s fire chief and deputy interim city manager, and one of the more respected voices in the county, faces his own court troubles, currently a $2.4 million federal fraud case.
Then he was hospitalized with Covid in July, and it was as if he’d been knocked off a donkey on the road to Damascus. He didn’t return a saint, but he’s been a different councilman from the one before his hospitalization: there’s been no controversies, no headlines, his demeanor toward the administration has been respectful, at times admiring, and his participation during meetings has been more substantial. In his first months he often asked questions that caused double-takes. “It takes time,” he said today, suggesting that he’d been learning the ropes.
Barbosa’s first seven months were embarrassing. Mullins over four years–his antics and embarrassments began to pile up well before his election–has only careened from disgrace to ignominy, his propensity for lies and defamations unhinged. The man a school board member has called a “pied piper of hate, deception and fraud” continues to revel in bigotry toward constituents, insulting fellow commission members (Hansen among them) and getting bolder every time two other fellow-Commissioners (Dave Sullivan and Don O’Brien) refused to censure him, as they twice refused to–naming him chairman of the commission instead weeks ago.
Barbosa’s challenge may not be the only one Mullins faces in that primary, especially now that Barbosa has filed: it creates a vast opening for a moderate Republican who may have been reluctant to risk reputation and sanity in a bipolar race, but who may be much more willing to run in a race where two carousels of baggage may end up running circles around each other, clearing an alternative path. Barbosa’s move may invite more than one such addition to the field even as Mullins is expected to swamp the race with money as he did in 2018.
Mullins spent $154,000 in his two races that year, an unprecedented sum for a local county commission seat until then, and the second-highest amount spent for a countywide election after Rick Staly’s $188,000 in 2018, with key differences: more than half the Staly amount was in-kind, and much of the rest was from campaign donors, reflecting a broader base of support that has grown since. In Mullins’s case, it was mostly self-bankrolled and what popular support he had, thanks in large part to being mostly unknown, has shrunk.
In 2018 Jane Gentile-Youd, the Realtor and permanent presence at county commission meetings, ran as an independent in the general election and lost, getting just 38 percent of the vote to Mullins’s 62. She is running again as an independent in a county where no independent has ever won a seat to the commission.